Ofcom details approach to IoT, as FTC recommends limits on data collection

Ofcom released details of plans designed to ensure the UK takes a leading role in developing the Internet of Things (IoT), as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) separately outlined its approach to the emerging technology sector.

The UK regulator said spectrum availability, data privacy, network security and resilience, and network addresses are priority focus areas for its work to develop IoT regulations that foster investment and innovation. Ofcom pledged to work closely with international standards bodies to establish common global regulations, in addition to its consultations with UK government and industry.

Acting CEO Steve Unger said IoT "will bring benefits to a range of sectors and could change the way we live our lives." The regulator noted that up to 50 billion connected devices could be in use by 2020, including cars, parking meters and even combine harvesters.

"As a result of this growth, we have listened closely to industry and want to develop a framework for this technology to evolve in a way which will ultimately benefit citizens and consumers," Unger added.

The regulator said it will monitor the long-term spectrum needs of IoT, noting that it believes IoT has sufficient spectrum for the short-to-medium term. On data protection, the regulator stated that existing laws will provide adequate coverage for most IoT applications, though it noted it would work with the UK Information Commissioner's Office and other regulators to ensure legislation remains fit for purpose as the IoT sector develops.

Ofcom said it will investigate how to extend current initiatives on network security and resilience to the IoT sector, and that it will monitor the switch from IPv4 to IPv6 that is creating the additional web addresses the IoT will require.

The UK regulator published its report on the same day as the U.S. FTC released a series of recommendations for the IoT, including restrictions on the amount of data companies collect and the time they store the information, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Security must be considered at the device level rather than being addressed after services launch, and businesses should carefully vet potential partners to ensure they meet data protection standards, the Journal added. The FTC report also recommended that consumers be kept in the loop regarding the information companies collect, and be given an opportunity to opt out of data collection.

While the FTC presented what appeared to be a united front, the Journal noted that one of the five commissioners that prepared the report believes it does not go far enough in detailing the potential cost of implementing the recommendations.

For more:
- see this Ofcom announcement
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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